The Paradox Of Drought by Candace Davis

Roma has a particular kind of dryness that will crack your skin, burn your eyes and dry the washing on the line in the underside of an hour. The parched, clay soil—infamous to the region—will shift the foundations of your house, devour your veggie garden and stifle your livelihood … if you let it.

The Queensland countryside can be raw, dangerous, authentic and celestial, all at once and in fluctuating quantities. Yet amid this harshness, strikingly beautiful sunsets highlight the screaming gum trees, awaken the otherwise bleak creek beds and paint the flattened horizon in soft hues of purple, orange and pink. Occasionally, the wet season will grace the ravaged region with a beauty of a thunderstorm, bringing hope on the tail end of a cool breeze. Nevertheless, if it does rain, it is sporadic and often times barely enough to blanket the dust, it only dampens your spirits. When the weather is warm enough, following the merciless scatter of rain, a black cloud of mozzies arrive in its wake, followed by the indomitable flies.

***

On a remote cattle station outside Roma, nondescript on account of its similarity to most other properties around it, the earth underfoot is as unsettled as the head of cattle responsible for it’s dispersion. The steers meander across the barren creek, which once split the prosperous homestead neatly in two, in search of a body of water that is now nothing but a long-forgotten memory. The hard earth, compacted by the heavy-hooved bovines, is fractured and exhausted; nothing bearing life remains for the cattle to feast upon. If the elixir of life did fall from the sky in a fashion substantial enough to matter, erosion would ensure its swift and solemn departure.

Once a green oasis, abundant with wildlife, the creek is now unoccupied by life, aside from the tormenting, vigorous weeds that relentlessly assault the countryside. The dainty purple flower of the downy skullcap flourishes; the brittle head of the dandelion head being carried away in the breeze; the flowering thistle, displaying it’s paradox of brute and beauty; the ruthless goat’s head lying in wait for an unsuspecting boot; and the rich, emerald green leaves of the mallow thriving in such sparseness. How so much abundance can emanate from such devastation remains a mystery.

The steers methodically move on; their willingness to meekly accept defeat and abandon the land is poignantly juxtaposed to their stronger-willed masters who refuse to accept a similar fate.